As we mourn Vicente Fernández’s passing while listening to songs like “A Mi Manera” and “Estos Celos,” drinking stored-away, fancy tequila and yes, crying while thinking about his inimitable legacy, we can’t help but think of the family he left behind. The 81-year-old “Rey De La Música Ranchera” had four children, sons Vicente Jr., Alejandro and Gerardo, plus an adopted daughter Alejandra (but more on that later).

At the time of his passing, El Chente had nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, famously protecting and loving his family to no end. In fact, the singer was known to often think about his family’s economic future, setting up a 500 hectare ranch close to Guadalajara that farms all kinds of produce and livestock. The name of the ranch? “Los Tres Potrillos,” after Fernández’s three sons.

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While “El Rey” always put his family first, he wouldn’t have had his familia amada without one very important person in his life: Vicente Fernandez’s wife, Cuquita Abarca, 75.

Sure, the celebrity lifestyle is known for leading to several marriages (and divorces), but Fernández saw life differently: born in Jalisco, he dropped out of school in 5th grade and worked all kinds of jobs in farms and kitchens around the city to support his parents and siblings.

Knowing genuine struggle, his rise to the top and massive starpower never got to his head, and he always put his family and his fans first. While often talking about how proud he was of singer son Alejandro, saying, “ha hecho una carrera muy bonita,” he famously said, “cantar es mi vida,” and saw music as an utmost serious vocation. He once said, “me siento muy contento, pero también con mucha responsabilidad” while looking out at a concert hall full of thousands of his fans, but few things were as important to El Chente as his family.

He once explained he only prayed for tranquilidad, being able to keep singing, and the health of his children and the love of his life, Cuquita.

So where did it all start?

While Vicente and Cuquita built the Fernández empire together, Cuquita was in charge of her husband’s business affairs, running a tight ship within his singing career and the household. Born Maria del Refugio Abarca in Huentitán, Jalisco just like Fernández, she is known for sewing and cooking at home just as much as being a sharp businesswoman and fiercely protecting the family’s assets.

And it all began with just a look: in his early twenties, Fernández vaguely knew about 17-year-old Cuquita because she was his friend’s younger sister. But one day, everything changed when he saw her leaving church with her mother. The singer was struck by Cupid’s bow, saying he couldn’t stop thinking about that “chaparrita caderona” and even gave her a laurel flower to symbolize her beauty. Seeing Cuquita changed his life, and he was adamant about becoming her boyfriend. When he finally got the nerve to ask her, she said she would give him a definitive answer the following Sunday. Of course, her response was a “si.”

Vicente and Cuquita’s relationship wasn’t so easy at the beginning. The tenor singer started his career at just 8-years-old, traveling to Guadalajara and singing in bars and the streets.

As the young couple began their relationship, Fernández continued to pursue his career, moving to Tijuana and Mexico City for long periods to try to get noticed by record labels in the early 60s. For this reason, Chente told Cuquita that she didn’t deserve having a boyfriend who couldn’t spend time with her, and said she was better off finding someone else. The “chaparrita” listened to him, and while he was off in Mexico City working in restaurants and singing everywhere he could, she found a new boyfriend.

But destiny had other plans: Fernández’s mother Paula Gómez died of cancer in 1963, so he returned to Jalisco to take care of his family. He met with Cuquita, and returning to her house, saw her boyfriend was waiting for her at the door. The future “Rey” wasted no time: he told Cuquita, “I’ll give you 10 minutes for you to leave him because we’re getting married on December 27” of 1963. Cuquita Abarca agreed, and the two were married for almost 58 years.

The couple’s marriage was marked by highs and lows, but the two famously put their family first. As with most people in the public eye, their marriage was marked by rumors of infidelity, with Fernández once saying in an interview, “I was never a saint, but no one ever saw me. There’s nothing more important than being discreet.”

While fans suspected he had affairs with singers Manoella Torres, Angélica María and others, the Ranchera singer had only one confirmed affair with actress Patricia Rivera. He admitted to it in 1978 when everyone suspected that Rivera’s son Rodrigo was actually Fernández’s. Vicente and Cuquita accepted him as a part of the family until 1998, when a DNA test showed he was not Fernández’s son. 

While the infidelities will sadly always be a part of the couple’s story, their bond seemed to be ingrained in the benefit of their family’s future, the ranch, and music. The two were remarkably similar, and both thought that la familia es lo más importante: in fact, they actually adopted daughter Alejandra from Cuquita’s sister Gloria who couldn’t care for her. While Vicente was still thinking over the decision, Gloria dropped off Alejandra on the day of his birthday. He played with Alejandra all day, and when he put her in her crib, he told her to sleep. She immediately fell asleep just seconds later, which Fernández always said is what “won him over.”

Alejandra didn’t always know she was adopted, thinking her parents were actually Vicente and Cuquita, until Gloria took her back for a short period of time. The singer has talked about this period of his life as an extremely difficult one that made him lose weight and become depressed. Seeing his reaction, Gloria ended up giving Alejandra back to the family. 

By the end of Chente’s life, his entire family offered him unwavering support at the hospital, but Cuquita never left his side. Holding onto hope for a miracle until the very end, Cuquita attended the Ranchera icon’s public memorial with tears in her eyes, embracing and kissing her beloved husband’s coffin as son Alejandro sang “Amor de los Dos.” While their marriage was complex, there’s no doubt Cuquita was always Fernández’s “Sublime Mujer.”